Chuck Schumer and Lindsey Graham are pushing for national biometric ID cards as part of their comprehensive immigration reform plan. Writing an opinion piece in The Washington Post, the senators argue that,

“We would require all U.S. citizens and legal immigrants who want jobs to obtain a high-tech, fraud-proof Social Security cards.”

Tech writer Declan McCullagh notes that

A Wall Street Journal article published March 8 included an interview with Schumer during which he said: “It’s the nub of solving the immigration dilemma politically speaking…If you say they can’t get a job when they come here, you’ll stop it.” It said the most likely type of biometric data to be included would be a scan of the veins in the top of the hand.

Apparently the President is interested:

Schumer and Graham pitched the idea to President Obama during a private meeting Thursday at the White House. Graham said afterward that Obama “welcomed” their proposal for a new ID card law; the White House said in a statement that the senators’ plan was “promising.”

Fortunately, they recognize the potential privacy threats that these cards represent and in two sentences dispel all fears.

“Each card’s unique biometric identifier would be stored only on the card; no government database would house everyone’s information. The cards would not contain any private information, medical information or tracking devices.”

Like so many encroachments on personal liberty, the initial impulse is rooted in good intentions. Does anyone really believe this technology won’t eventually be used for reasons less salutary than discouraging illegal immigration?




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Mark T. Mitchell
Mark T. Mitchell is the co-founder of Front Porch Republic. He is the Dean of Academic Affairs at Patrick Henry College and the author of several books including Power and Purity, The Limits of Liberalism, The Politics of Gratitude, and Localism in Mass Age: A Front Porch Republic Manifesto (co-editor).


  1. It’s good to know that the government won’t use the biometric cards to help its drones target anyone. I’m reassured already–but just in case, I may store my biometric I.D. someplace far, far away from my house…

  2. I would be more impressed if standing congressional directives to develop a system which tracks entry into and exit from the United States were actually developed. Purportedly, there has been an authorization for this from Congress on the books for 20 years. How about a cement wall topped with razor wire and guard towers on the Mexican border? Over the period running from 1956 to 1994, public authorities build 38,000 worth of Inter-state Highways. Since illegal immigration came to be a matter of public anxiety 35 years ago, constructing 2,000 worth of cement wall has been beyond the capacity of public agencies. Ya think they just don’t feel like it?

  3. It’s true that the concern isn’t so much for the biometric card’s immediate capabilities, which seem salutary, but for its potential to morph into something more invasive of privacy and an additional power over citizenry.

    Even with respect to its immediate merits, wouldn’t this necessitate every single small, medium and large business purchasing an expensive biometric card reader to verify the biometric readings? Would the reader be capable of wireless proximity scanning so the card doesn’t have to be inserted into a slot, but waved around the reader? And would this create identity theft issues if card scanners could be cheaply made; or if they are expensive, how would businesses afford them apart from subsidies?

    Then again, perhaps it would be worth it. We’ve certainly wasted lots of money on less worthwhile endeavors.

  4. What a stupid idea. If the goal is to create a means to pursue employers, ID cards are hardly necessary. How much illegal immigration is the result of paperwork fraud? Probably about as big an issue as voter fraud! Something else is going on here — perhaps an effort by Schumer to call Republican’s bluff on immigration enforcement.

    Call me an optimist, but US citizens are not going to tolerate being IDed in this way. And the tourist industry is not going to be willing to tolerate the lost business generated by customers unwilling to apply for US tourist visas due to this requirement.

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